Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Sirens Review

Still don't have your copy of I Hear The Sirens In The Street, yet? Well, that's ok, it's certainly not for everyone (one lady recently dissed me on Good Reads complaining that I put too much thought into my prose style) but it is for some people and this is what Winsor Dobbin in last Sunday's Melbourne Age thinks: 

I Hear the Sirens in the Street 
Adrian McKinty 
Serpent's Tail

Winsor Dobbin
The Melbourne Age, 26 May 2013

Northern Ireland. 1982. An uncomfortable place to be a policeman, let alone a Catholic one. Sean Duffy, articulate, urbane and stubborn as they come, is a detective in Protestant Carrickfergus at the height of the decades-long sectarian war that ripped Ulster apart: ''A shooting in Crossmaglen, a suspicious van in Cookstown, an incendiary attack in Lurgan - nothing that serious.''

As for settings, it doesn't get much bleaker: ''Army helicopters flew over the lough, sirens wailed in County Down, a distant thump-thump was the sound of mortars or explosions. The city was under a shroud of chimney smoke and the cinematographer, as always, was shooting in 8mm black and white. This was Belfast in the 14th year of the low-level civil war euphemistically known as The Troubles."

It's hard to be enthusiastic about your job when your first task each morning is to check your car for a mercury tilt bomb. Forget one morning and …

When the torso of American veteran and war hero Bill O'Rourke is found in a suitcase in an abandoned factory, it looks as if the IRA might have been up to its old tricks, but then it turns out the victim has been poisoned by a mixture containing the root of a rare plant.

Duffy's investigation leads him to a desperate aristocrat, a foxy widow and an American billionaire chancer (a real one, in this case) and us on a musical journey from Saint-Saens to Blondie.

You have to drink in descriptions such as: ''Belfast was not beautiful. It had been built on mudflats and without rock foundations nothing soared. Its architecture had been Victorian red brick utilitarian and sixties brutalism before both of those tropes had crashed headlong into the Troubles. A thousand car bombs later and what was left was surrounded by concrete walls, barbed wire and a steel security fence to keep the bombers out. ''

This is probably the best police thriller I've read over the past 12 months - lyrical, poetic and mean. ''I tried to think of a curse but Irish articulacy had clearly diminished since the days of Wilde and Yeats, Synge and Shaw. Three 'shites' and a ciggie, that was the best we could come up with in these diminished times,'' Duffy muses.

This book is atmospheric, beautifully paced and precisely constructed; one that is genuinely hard to put down.

Fans of Billingham, Rankin and Lehane and their ilk will not want to miss out on McKinty, who is now basing himself in Melbourne - where he will doubtless become a valuable addition to the brotherhood of wordsmiths in Australia.